Metro Weekly

Gay dads sue New York school after son endures two years of homophobic bullying

Fathers allege that Albert Shanker School administrators dismissed complaints after their son was called anti-gay slurs and repeatedly bullied

gay dads school son bullied
Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Gay fathers are suing their son’s school and alleging that administrators allowed homophobic bullying to continue for two years without intervention.

Jason Cianciotto, one of the fathers, told Gay City News that his son was repeatedly bullied at Albert Shanker School for Visual and Performing Arts in Astoria, Queens.

The bullying started because of his gay dads and continued after the boy himself came out as gay, Cianciotto said.

In a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Federal Court, the fathers allege that their son was bullied for “acting like a girl,” with students calling him a “faggot ass” and “bitch,” and telling him that he would be “damned to hell by God because of his ‘lifestyle.'”

When the fathers raised concerns with administrators, they allege that the school opened “half-hearted investigations” which deemed their son’s complaints “unfounded.”

The lawsuit claims that after the youth, referred to as D.S. in the lawsuit, was told he was “destined to burn in hell,” school administrators responded by calling it a “difference of opinion.”

A dean at the school also allegedly told D.S. that it was “inappropriate” to discuss his sexuality and accused her of saying that if the boy “didn’t talk about being gay in school, then these things wouldn’t happen.”

Another teacher was accused of cutting off D.S. during a presentation after he discussed his transgender uncle, deeming it “too personal.”

“The school’s responsibility was to follow the law and stop and prevent the bullying from happening,” Cianciotto told GCN, “not to blame my son for it and just try to get him not to be himself.”

He added: “I had falsely made the presumption that when it came to bullying in school, while we couldn’t prevent it from happening consistently, that the school would follow that [anti-discrimination laws] and put a stop to it immediately.”

Cianciotto said that they ultimately decided to withdraw D.S. from the school, after he started to express suicidal thoughts and began to “poke his fingers in his eyes.”

“It was so horrific and tragic and sad to see,” Cianciotto said, adding, “The comfort that he had gotten after living with us over time and approaching his adoption hearing date [was] interfered with by what was happening at school.”

D.S., who has a learning difficulty, was placed with seven different foster families until he was 10 years old. His last foster family abandoned him at a hospital after he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, the New York Post reports.

The tumor was operated on and he was subsequently adopted by Cianciotto and his husband in 2017, aged 11.

Of the school’s alleged treatment of D.S., Cianciotto said, “Instead of being greeted with the same kind of support and welcoming that he had gotten from our family…he was met with bullying and harassment, and dismissal, and even religious-based condemnation of himself, and his dads.”

The youth is now in a new school, which Cianciotto described as “different like night and day” in comparison.

After D.S. was removed from school, his fathers requested a hearing under the Disabilities Education Act. The officer at the hearing determined that the school “[failed] to address the bullying” and “went so far as to blame the student for making himself a target of the bullying.”

The officer wrote that she was “at a loss to understand how an educational professional could possibly blame a child for being the victim of a prolonged and severe pattern of emotional and physical bullying.”

A Department of Education spokesperson told the Post that the agency would “review the complaint and immediately investigate the claims.”

She added: “These allegations are deeply troubling and there is absolutely zero tolerance for bullying or harassment of any kind in our schools.”

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